Nutrition the key to future health
Africa is home to a rich variety of nutrition both on land and water. Nutrition plays a crucial role in this unique period. Many mothers in Africa make the mistake of giving the baby imbalanced nutrients in terms of quality and quantity. Both under nutrition and over nutrition can have profound negative effects on the development of the child, and thus on the risk of non-communicable diseases in later life, such as asthma, obesity, diabetes and heart disease.
Increasing scientific evidence shows that meeting the specific nutritional needs during phases of the first 1,000 days, and beyond, will positively influence short and long-term health outcomes. Indeed, it is now recognized that individual development is determined not only by genetics, but through a complex interplay of genes and the environment. It has been estimated that at most 20% of lifelong health can be explained by inherited genes. This means that at least 80% of disease risk in later life is due to the environment, including nutrition and life style. More importantly, that the developmental trajectories established in early life influence the response of an individual to later exposures.
Pregnant and breastfeeding women, infants and young children have specific nutritional need. Nutrition in early life has key impact on physical growth, cognitive development, immune maturation, development of digestive systems and development of healthy eating habits of the infant
This is the time in a young life when nutrition can have an impact that lasts a lifetime. Early life nutrition has a significant role on the development of the brain and immune system, as well as how the body metabolically reacts to foods or nutrients that in turn may influence the likelihood of developing conditions such as obesity, allergy, heart disease and diabetes in later life.
Babies are conceived and born with DNA, a unique set of genes that stay the same throughout their lives. The latest science, however, suggests that this genetic blueprint only accounts for, at most, 20% of their future health.
We now know that the way your baby’s genes express themselves comes down to their ‘programming’. Studies have shown that the right environment, from conception, throughout pregnancy, and until toddlerhood, can help shape their long-term health.
In other words, by providing the right nutrition and lifestyle during this critical window, you can help 'program' your baby's genes to express themselves in positive ways.
The positive effects on long-term health
By providing your child with the right nutrition and lifestyle you can:
- influence their metabolism, which may contribute to reducing their risk of being overweight or obese;
- influence their brain development and future brain health;
- help build a robust immune system; and
- help reduce their risk of developing allergies and non-communicable diseases, such as heart disease and diabetes later in life